Find your ancestors in Sarum Marriage Licence Bonds

Discover your relatives through these marriage licence bond records from the Church of England Diocese of Salisbury. The records stretch from 1604 to 1837, giving you valuable family history records prior to civil registration.

Each record includes a transcript of the original marriage bond registry. The amount of information in each record may vary but most will include the following:

  • Name
  • Birth year
  • Licence date
  • Bride’s name
  • Bride’s age
  • Bride’s parish and county
  • Bride’s condition (marital status)
  • Groom’s name
  • Groom’s age
  • Groom’s parish and county
  • Groom’s condition (marital status)
  • Groom’s occupation
  • Bride and groom notes
  • Bondman(s) name
  • Place
  • Jurisdiction
  • County and country

When available the Bride and groom notes will often include additional family information about your ancestors. Also, for marital status these records have used abbreviations for spinster (sp), bachelor (bac) and widow (wid).

Discover More about the Sarum Marriage Licence Bond

Sarum is an old name for Salisbury in the south of England, but is still used as the name for the diocese. New Salisbury was founded in the 1200s, it was also known as New Sarum to distinguish it from Old Sarum, an older settlement.

It is believed that the name Sarum comes from an inaccurate extension of the abbreviation of the word Sarisburium or Saresbury. In medieval scribal practice, a stroke was written after a suspended word. In this case the stroke came after 'Sa.' The stroke when later misinterpreted as an 'r' for the suffix 'rum.' The use of the word Sarum is recorded as early as 1300.

The Sarum Marriage Licence Bonds collection was created by the Wiltshire Family History Society. It includes marriage licences issued from the Diocese of Salisbury, which covers most of Wiltshire, Berkshire, parts of Dorset and Devon. The following jurisdictions are included in the records:

  • The Bishop of Salisbury in Wiltshire and Berkshire
  • The Dean of Sarum in Wiltshire, Berkshire, Dorset and Uffculme, Devon
  • The Dean & Chapter in Salisbury, Wiltshire
  • The Treasurer in Alderbury, Figheldean, Pitton and Calne, Wiltshire
  • The Precentor in Westbury, Bratton and Dilton, Wiltshire
  • The Peculiar of Gillingham in Dorset, including Motcombe
  • The Peculiar of Corsham in Wiltshire, including Stratton St Margaret
  • The Prebend of Chute and Chisenbury in Wiltshire, including Winterbourne Dauntsey
  • Wantage in Berkshire

History of the Marriage Licence

Marriage licences were used from the 14th century onwards, but it was not until 1604 Canon Law that the practice became codified. The law expressed that couples could be except from the practice of publication or banns by obtaining a licence. The tradition of banns can be traced as far back as 1215. It was introduced as a way to prevent secret marriages. Banns were announcements made in the church on three separate Sundays during the three months leading up to the wedding day. The announcements were made to give the congregation an opportunity to voice any objection to the marriage. For the first time in 1753 Parliament passed legislation directly related to the law of marriage, the Clandestine Marriages Act, 1753, also known as Lord Hardwick’s Act. The Act was passed to legislate marriage licences and prevent fraudulent marriages. By this time, licence regulations had begun to lax and false licences were emerging. It was not until the Marriage Act of 1823, that two witnesses were required in order to issue a legal marriage licence.

To obtain a licence the couples were required to sign an allegation statement to determine their ages, marital status, place of residence and included an oath that there were no impediments to the marriage. A bond was also sworn, often by the groom and bride’s father, to pledge a large sum of money if any impediments were found. Impediments could include a previous marriage or consanguinity (the bride and groom were closely related). The sum was normally an amount beyond the means of the bride and groom. There are different reasons why couples married by licence instead of by bann; they may have wanted to get married quickly, they may have wanted to show that they could pay for a licence or the couple was getting married away from home. If a marriage licence was issued it did not guarantee that the marriage did take place.